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WA technology, the solution to shark attacks? {with videos}

Yoshitaa Thadhani
Yoshitaa Thadhani
// With the recent uptick in shark sightings and attacks, will technology (engineered right here in WA) hold the secret to dealing with the issue?

With the recent uptick in shark sightings and attacks, will technology (engineered right here in WA) hold the secret to dealing with the issue?

Put a shark in the headline and image, and it gets lots of attention (you opened this story right?!), but is there a chance here for local technology folks to solve a problem that has been plaguing successive governments, surfers, water goers and others in recent years?

According to the 2018 Shark Attack Map, as of June 2018 there have already been 15 reported shark attacks in Australia, 7 of these in Western Australia.

Shark Mitigation

In 2013 UWA shark experts Shaun Collin and Nathan Hart along with Hamish Jolly, who initiated the project, came up with a non-invasive way to prevent shark attacks; and so Smart Marine Systems (SM8) was born.

Formerly known as Shark Mitigation Systems (Pty Ltd then Ltd), the company listed on the ASX in April 2016 raising $3.5M.

The underlying work had stemmed from the UWA Oceans Institute and was made world famous by Hamish’s celebrated TED talk in 2014 (having now garnered 2.6M views.)

The idea behind the technology was that as predatory sharks can only see in black and white or grayscale a two patterned wetsuit and/or surfboard could prevent a shark attack.

The first pattern, ‘Warning’, was designed for use on the water’s surface providing a disruptive profile, preventing the shark from considering you as food. The second wetsuit, ‘Cryptic’, camouflages the wearer in the water column.

SMS then decided to create ‘Clever Buoy’, a smart buoy that detects large marine life using sonar and identification software systems to communicate critical information to the beach safety authorities.

WA technology, the solution to shark attacks? {with videos}
The Clever Buoy shark detector

The company has had a tough time of it on the stock market, with its share price (ASX:SM8) declining from 24c in mid 2016 to around 3c today, despite having secured some US distribution deals. Hamish Jolly is still a non executive Director of the company.

Shark Shield

Another non-invasive technology, also originating out of WA, is Ocean Guardian (formerly Shark Shield) aimed at divers, spear-fishers and kayakers.

Ocean Garden’s devices use an electrical repellent that has been shown effective at preventing sharks from biting. A recent piece of research from Flinders University cited Ocean Guardian’s models as one of only a few models on the market that have been shown to actually deter shark attacks, by as much as 60%.

There are two models, one that wraps around the ankle for divers and swimmers, ‘Freedom 7’, and one that requires installation directly onto a board for kayaks and surfers, ‘Surf 7’.

The Western Australian Government offers a $200 rebate on Ocean Garden’s devices. Its Freedom+ Surf bundle retails for around $500 to $600, hence the rebate pays for a significant proportion of the device.

Ocean Guardian is now pursuing its own $5M Initial Public Offering (IPO) in order ramp up its commercialisation, which could see the company hit the boards (ASX boards that is) next week on 28th June.


Yet another device – ‘Rpela’ – has been created by local surfer and board maker David Smith.

David has been a surfer for 40 years and a surf board maker for 30, and believes his system is far better than other measures such as drum lines and culling.

As sharks use vibration to spot prey, Rpela was designed to disrupt this from long or close ranges. The device attaches to the board itself and emits an electric pulse.

According to his website none of his customers have had an encounter with a shark thus far, with the full system retailing for around $450.

This 1-minute video shows David demo’g his invention…


Please note, there has been considerable debate as to how well the devices mentioned in this article (and others not mentioned) work. While these devices can discourage sharks from attacking, they won’t necessarily work in any and all situations.

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Yoshitaa Thadhani

Yoshitaa Thadhani

Yoshitaa is a 3rd year ECU student with a passion for broadcast journalism. She has a great love for travel, journalism, filming and social media.
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